Archive for Sunday, November 23, 2008

Historical society maps out its future

Long-term plans outlined for Watkins Community Museum

November 23, 2008


It might have been 75 years to the day that the state of Kansas officially chartered the Douglas County Historical Society, but when members met Saturday, their focus was very much on the future, not the past.

And members of the historical society — which oversees the Watkins Community Museum of History — had a lot to consider at the annual meeting where officers were elected, yearly updates given and a silent auction conducted during a dinner at the museum.

In the past year, the historical society dismissed the museum’s director and brought on a part-time interim director.

It hired consultants — with the help of a grant from Douglas County — to develop a long-range plan for the museum.

And in June, the museum was one of 19 locations in Kansas to be designated as a state historic partnership site, which makes it eligible for the sale and distribution of state tax credits.

In her speech to the members, Phyllis Tiffany, who was re-elected as chair of the board, spoke of the need to reorganize the museum.

In the past few years, the historical society has seen a decrease in both membership and income.

“Something must be addressed here,” Tiffany said. “We also as an organization have to look very hard at what historical museums are and what they should become in the 21st century.”

As the night’s keynote speaker, Judge Deanell Reece Tacha encouraged members to look for ways to join the regional effort in creating a national heritage area that highlights eastern Kansas and western Missouri’s involvement in the run-up to and fighting of the Civil War.

With its rich history, Lawrence could be a focal point for the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, Tacha said.

The heritage area includes 41 counties.

“No one can do it all. Partnering, it seems to me, is so good for all of us,” Tacha said. “And it could be the tipping point for the museum and perhaps the story it is trying to tell.”


Kookamooka 9 years, 7 months ago

Court families with children and you will be sowing the seeds for the future. I don't know why the leaders in this community can't figure this out.

George_Braziller 9 years, 7 months ago

I've lived in Lawrence for 25 years and Watkins Museum has always seemed to struggle to figure out its identity. At one time it was a useful resource for research but the last time I was there three or four years ago the files were in such a horrible state it would take two people working for a year to get them back into some sort of a useable state. The staff couldn't even find anything and files were just piled on every flat surface. I had gone back to make another copy of a document related to the history of my house that I knew was there because I had read it before. When the "archivist" pulled the file for me there was absolutely nothing in it and she had no idea where it might be.If they don't want to deal with research then donate the materials to one of the libraries in town and focus on some actually interesting exhibits and programs. The place has always been a snoozer to walk through because nothing ever changes.

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